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Local News

Library plans $10.5 million renovation

The Chicago Street entrance to the Joliet Public Library building downtown would be reopened as one feature in a $10.5 million remodeling project under consideration.
The Chicago Street entrance to the Joliet Public Library building downtown would be reopened as one feature in a $10.5 million remodeling project under consideration.

The Joliet Public Library is proposing a $10.5 million remodeling that would modernize the downtown building.

The project could start next year, but that may depend on whether the city is willing to provide $6.5 million for the bulk of the funding.

Library representatives presented their plan along with the funding request to the Joliet City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday.

“Now is the time to improve your diamond in the rough – the Joliet Public Library,” Library Director Megan Millen told the committee. “As the third-largest city in Illinois, Joliet deserves a modern library.”

The library building was built in 1903 and designed by famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham.

Millen said the library plans to expand digital media offerings and make space for entrepreneurs, add study rooms and reopen the Chicago Street entrance as part of an effort to make the library more of a destination place that would complement other improvements planned for the downtown area.

The plan includes a redesign of the library interior, with the youth library moving upstairs and adult services coming to the main floor that also would be used as a gathering space.

Library representatives discussed the facility becoming the indoor complement to the new plaza the city plans to build across Clinton Street from the library.

Both are located along Chicago Street, which the city plans to enhance with a street-widening plan aimed at bringing more traffic through the heart of downtown.

Finance Committee Chairman Michael Turk called the library’s plan “very impressive.”

But he and other committee members did not make a commitment regarding the $6.5 million request that is coming at a time when the city is facing other financial demands.

At the same meeting, the committee was told it will take $16 million to replace aging police cars, dump trucks and other city vehicles that are more than 10 years old.

Finance Director James Ghedotte also told the committee that the city has been cutting into reserve funds and cautioned against letting them drop lower.

“We have a lot of discussion about the 2020 budget. This is the first thing to discuss,” Ghedotte said.

Millen said the library proposes spending $4 million on the library renovations out of its own reserve funds. She said the library property tax levy has been “relatively flat” for 10 years and the tax rate has been dropping in recent years.

The Joliet library has two branches. The other is on Black Road.

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